CLEVELAND - When David Ayers entered the courtroom, he said hello to Judge Nancy Russo with a smile. She was the same judge who sentenced him to life in prison nearly 11 years ago.
With his reading glasses hanging from his prison fatigues and his family in the crowd, Ayers listened to the state's attorney ask the judge to set him free. And just like that, a man who woke up this morning in a jail cell, will fall asleep tonight in his own bed.
"I can't wait to just get him and hug him and kiss him," said Ayers' sister Valerie after the hearing. "Let him know how much I really, really miss him."
Valerie Ayers worked with members of the Innocence Project to reveal DNA evidence that would exonerate her brother.
NewsChannel5 covered the murder case back in 1999 when Ayers worked in the LaRonde Apartments, a CMHA owned complex. He was accused of beating 76-year-old tenant Dorothy Brown to death.
In 2000, he was convicted after a cell mate testified that Ayers admitted to the crime. But the Ohio Supreme Court later threw out that testimony and gave Ayers another trial.
"He kept his head up," said Valerie. "He believed he was going to get out. We always had faith."
The new DNA evidence is what set Ayers free. Investigators found a hair at the scene that couldn't be tested in 1999 until now.
"I'm just thankful. Give God all of the praise," said Valerie. "My brother is coming home, finally."
Now the question remains who killed Dorothy Brown?